Police referrals swamped Haringey

Haringey social workers were facing a deluge of “unnecessary” referrals from local police at the time of the Baby Peter case, the High Court was told yesterday.

The details emerged during the judicial review of Sharon Shoesmith’s sacking as Haringey’s director of children’s services.

In its report to the High Court, Ofsted said Shoesmith had not made any effort to address the problem of unnecessary police referrals, which meant social workers did not have enough time to focus on more serious cases.

Ofsted’s barrister Tim Ward read witness statements from investigators sent in to carry out an emergency inspection in the wake of the Baby Peter trial. One statement said: “It was clear nothing was being done by managers to address the problem of excessive numbers of unnecessary referrals [from the police].”

Frontline staff were also suffering under greater caseloads than council statistics showed because at-risk children in the same family were being counted as one case, according to Ofsted’s report.

Shoesmith is seeking to quash the emergency Ofsted report ordered by children’s secretary Ed Balls, which he used as the basis to remove her statutory powers. She is seeking compensation for her this, and her subsequent sacking by the council, claiming she was denied “natural justice” because she had no chance to give feedback on the report.

However, Ward said although the watchdog had decided not to allow any formal feedback on the report because of the case’s sensitivity, investigators had repeatedly questioned Shoesmith over their serious concerns.

The court was also told that other council members knew the Ofsted report was likely to be bad the weekend before Ofsted inspectors arrived as social workers strove desperately to fill “empty screens” with data.

“If Ms Shoesmith was, as she claims, oblivious to just how serious those concerns were, then she was the only one in the council, yet she had the most contact with investigators,” Ward said.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said it did not recognise the problem of unnecessary referrals.

The hearing continues.

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